Whether customer-facing or behind the scenes, technology is increasingly becoming a tool for disruption within the hospitality industry. Such change, however, brings with it a new way of thinking.
Amy Webb, founder and CEO for the digital strategy consulting firm Webbmedia Group has outlined four digital trends to help restaurant operators think about technology in a new light.
1. Digital Time Zones
Me Time is when consumers are interacting with their device as a personal experience. That’s when its just a person and his or her smartphone playing a game or watching a cat video. That’s different from Our Time, when consumers use their devices with other people to solve a problem, play or work. The device isn’t a wall, but actually facilitates conversation, Webb said. In Real Time, devices do something immediate for consumers, like pagers that let them know their table is ready, or apps that allow them to remotely get in line at their favorite restaurant.
As they develop technology, restaurant operators should think about how they can accommodate more than one digital time zone. For example, could tabletop tablets offer me time entertainments in addition to our time ordering? Webb says to “start thinking about digital time zones focusing on your customers’ needs and behaviors, rather than just their devices and your organization’s workflow.”
2. Ambient Attendants
Google Now, for example, will send an alert to you to leave your house earlier if there’s traffic along your usual commuter route. The restaurant chatbot Luka is being designed to give advice on dining out, but in a way that feels more like a conversation, sifting through reviews that would fit your specific tastes.
Webb called it the “autocomplete for our intentions,” a trend that will likely be invisible, but eventually ubiquitous. “It’s still far off,” she said, “but it’s time to start thinking about how to incorporate these tools now.
3. Cognitive Computing
This was a running theme at a National Restaurant Association Restaurant Innovation Summit in San Diego, where attendees also witnessed IBM Watson’s latest iteration as “Chef Watson”, applying its cognitive powers to recipe development.
4. Participatory Dining
Webb predicted telepresence, like the Beam, to be a big part of the “robot-assisted restaurant” in the future. “A lot of people think this is a gimmick,” she said. “I’m telling you that it’s not.”